Category Archives: home

A Punctual Little Fellow

I’ve replaced the timekeeping battery in the trail cam and now the time stamp is accurate on these photos. The first thing I noticed: Mr. Hedgehog is a man of routine. He leaves his pad a little after 8pm and returns a little after 6am.

Also, is it mere coincidence that two mice appear at 04:20 and a cat at 04:40? (Can you find both mice?)

More tales from the trail cam

The hedgehog and other critters make appearances. I’ve since set the trail cam to photo and hope to get a few higher resolution pictures to share.

Our hedgehog heads out
A mouse zips around. Why does the mouse seem nervous?
Maybe because of this furry friend?
Or this one?
Never mind, I’m checking this place out!
Our still unnamed friend returns and finds a stick in the way!
Since most videos of him returning show his rump disappearing in the hole, I’ve skipped those. As a result, it looks like hedgehogs spawn in this hut.
This time, he heads the other way.
To finish it off, here’s a special guest.

Did you spot the spider going up and down right about under the “Watch later” icon in one of the videos? Is it a spider, or a video artifact?

Hedgehog Hibernation Hotel

We don’t have a pet: the closest we get is our BeeHome for solitary bees. (If you’re looking into getting one, I’d vote for the classic version, not the Observer we got. While we’ve seen a bee or two cuddle up in the drawer for the night, none has ever laid any eggs in there.) Researching other ways to provide for wild animals that struggle in urban and suburban areas, I came across several options. Bat lodgings seemed neat, but the bats need two meters of free space beneath their dwelling to launch into flight. A sparrow hotel sounds interesting, but I’m still shying away from drilling through our insulation into concrete to hang it up, because I haven’t figured out how to get it down again easily to clean it. Hedgehog houses, on the other hand, avoid a lot of these problems, so that’s what we built.

And here’s how we did it:

Drill an entryway into an old IKEA coffee table
Drill an entryway into an old IKEA coffee table.
Try to avoid the screws...
Try to avoid the screws…
Lay the table on its side an define its position on the bottom board.
Lay the table on its side an define its position on the bottom board.
Make a slider out of scrap wood to separate the entryway from the hedgehog's crib.
Make a slider out of scrap wood to separate the entryway from the hedgehog’s crib.
Slide in the slider.
Slide in the slider.

Next, put the thing in the cellar as you mull over getting shingles for the roof and mull over how on earth to make the shingles work. But finally, one fine summer’s day, a day off thanks to it being our national holiday, pull it back out and work on the roof.

I used a staple gun to affix the shingle to the roof. The nails I had would have been too long. Not also the thin strip of shingle at the base to seal a crack.
I used a staple gun to affix the shingle to the roof. The nails I had would have been too long. Not also the thin strip of shingle at the base to seal a crack.
I stapled the shingle around the front and back edge, but left it to stick out left and right. Notice the storm hooks to hold the hotel together.
I stapled the shingle around the front and back edge, but left it to stick out left and right. Notice the storm hooks to hold the hotel together.
On the other side, only one storm hook. For easier maintenance access, I installed a hinge to open the roof.
On the other side, only one storm hook. For easier maintenance access, I installed a hinge to open the roof.
Stuff the HogPad with straw—though to be honest I forgot the thick layer of newspaper the instructions said to put in first. Anyway, who still does newspapers?
Stuff the HogPad with straw—though to be honest I forgot the thick layer of newspaper the instructions said to put in first. Anyway, who still does newspapers?

So with the smaller volume (just under the ideal 30x30x30 cm) and the missing newspaper floor and the slightly smaller entrance, this HedgeHotel isn’t 100% to spec, but it should still pass muster, if indeed a hedgehog comes looking.

We stuck the hedgehog hotel under our bushes.
We stuck the hedgehog hotel under our bushes.
The lone straw across the entrance is to let us know if a critter has crept inside. So far, no luck. However, we haven't checked the past few rainy days.
The lone straw across the entrance is to let us know if a critter has crept inside. So far, no luck. However, we haven’t checked the past few rainy days.

Wish us luck—and a boarder!

Update August 18, 2019: In the meantime, the straw has been moved—twice! We know someone’s gone in there, but was it a hedgehog? Now I’m starting to consider a game camera…

See the blueberry I deposited? (Yes, it is a pink cultivar.)
Straw pushed aside again, blueberry gone! (And yes, that’s a slug on the roof… hope the hedgehog ate it later!)
Planter box, sub-irrigated

Sub-irrigated planter box on wheels

Our yard isn’t ideal for growing. In the morning, the house casts a shadow. On a sunny day, the awning that keeps our sun porch from boiling casts a shadow. The tree casts a shadow in the afternoon. The grill stands in the way of conveniently working on one strip. So if I wanted the kids to enjoy gardening, I needed something accessible and sunny.

Enter the planter box. After plenty of reading and research, I found AlboPepper’s sub-irrigated planter, 30 minutes of clear instructions and a system that was self-contained. (Most others stood on soil, which I didn’t want, given that our lawn is so small the kids can barely play ball on it.)

I planned to modify his plan to include caster wheels to make the box movable on our patio, and the size of my box would be that of the standard European shipping pallet, 80 by 120 cm (32 by 48 inches). Getting the shipping pallet with frame was the easiest part: I got it used for 6 francs. And then it sat in our sun porch for a long time…

Finally, I sat down and did math, calculating the total length of my 10 cm corrugated drainage pipe and the total volume of soil I’d need, as well as the dimensions of the pond liner that would keep the wood from getting wet. I purchased those supplies along with the wheels (picked to support the weight I’d calculated), struts, and screws. It was hard to translate the soil components into German, so I’m still not sure my planter box wicks the moisture up as intended, but 2019 has been rainy, which means the jury’s still out.

And then, I got busy building.

JAS helping saw the bottom
JAS helps me cut a cupboard backing to size

The pallet has holes, so I repurposed cupboard backing I no longer needed (the cupboard had also seen a makeover) to spread the load and keep the pond liner from stretching.

The cupboard backing nailed to the pallet.
The girls playing with leftover cupboard backing and corrugated slotted drainage pipe.
Jam session on the pallet. Cupboard backing still holding up, although I had to bang a few nails back in.
Screwing on the caster wheels early was a life-saver and helped me move the box around much more easily. Here I have clamped a strut in place to pre-drill and then attach with screws. (After taking this picture, I undid the clamp before screwing down the strut…)
The view from above, all struts affixed.
Here’s where some luck came in: the overflow drainage hole fit nicely between strut and metal pallet frame corner.
In goes the pond liner. This process was like making a bed inside-out.
I used masking tape to hold down the liner. It was a bit larger than planned, which meant I couldn’t fold it according to AlboPepper’s instructions. You can see I tried to fold a triangle and lay it to one side of the corner, but that only works if the pond liner doesn’t rise above the edge of the planter box.
Enter origami! Squish a smaller triangle to either side and the flap folds over the edge at the corner, even keeping the triangles from coming undone.
A close-up of the origami solution, stapled down on the outside.
Inside close-up. It doesn’t lie fully flat, but close enough.
I used “Unkrautvlies” to cover the drainage pipe ends. It’s not terribly strong, but I figure it doesn’t need to be.
First pipes are in. It was hard work to get them straightened.
After some filing and plastic cutting, the overflow tube is in! It’s rubber tubing from an old shower hose.
The marking on the short tube is there so the slit in the fabric lines up with the rubber tube.
AlboPepper put the irrigation hole in a corner. I wanted it in the middle because that way it would be least likely to get in the way of the kids, who were going to get a quadrant each.
I drilled holes into a plastic IKEA kiddie table leg.
Now the hollow leg serves as a water inlet. Luck strikes again: the garden hose is just a touch smaller and will stay in there even with the water on.
In goes dirt and mulch and fertilizer and perlite.
Ta-da! Later I sawed the corner off the plastic kiddie table so the inlet got a screw top to keep airborne junk and gunk out.
No sooner had we planted the seeds that we needed to cover it up with a trash bag. Snow in May? Really?
And this is what it looks like mid-June. One advantage of being on wheels is that it’s pretty hard for snails to get in.

More videos

Here’s the last push to get 2015 settled.

November, in the new house: Jigsaw practice.  If I had realized that there was only one November video left, I might have included it yesterday.

December, obviously in the new house: The will to crawl, Forward motion, Decorating the tree part 1, part 2, part 3, Workspace 1.0, Tooth and (no) crawl, Swim fast, Piano man, Crawling baby six months, Jingle bells, High chair, Stockings, Model planes, Bean bag, Big present, Doll house, Cantons book, Christmas music, Jingle bells (reprise), Jingle bells (Bappe’s turn), Three weeks of crawling.

More videos

Happy New Year!  Here’s a bevy of videos for your day off.

October, at the old apartment: Lemon juice (again), Sisters, Grabbing and licking, Bunny toy, A lotta hair, Entertaining Ellie, Raspberries, Danerjeesen Womp Womp, Bedtime babbles, Time to say goodbye part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and an Indian summer, Swingset fun, Climbing challenge part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, Slow Indian summer, Climbing challenge part 5 and some zwieback, part 6, part 7, Uncle Pastuzo, Siblings at play.

November, at the old apartment: Formula futility, Drops, Rückbildungsgymnastik, Hand and foot part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 with babbling, Decluttering achievements part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 (Dotville), Showing off the atlas, Discovery binder Vivienne part 1, part 2, part 3, Stationmaster, Discovery binder Vivienne part 4, Discovery binder Joseph part 1, part 2, Letter tracing, Duolingo Swedish part 1, part 2, Whiteboard drawing, Silly!, Mattress flop, Putting in the trees, Jumping game (again), Big jump, The jumping game disintegrates, Everyone asleep, Swedish duolingo, Picture explanation, Piano soporific, Shape families, Discovery binder Joseph part 3, part 4, part 5, Joseph’s journal, Miquon math orange, German workbook, Smiles and spit, Origami review.

More later…

Baby pool IV: the results

Eleonora Margaret Stücklin is here, and decided to come a few hours past the astronomical solstice, but still on the 21st of June, the best Father’s Day present I’ve ever received.  Combined with her dimensions and gender she also gave me a less relevant Father’s Day present: winning the baby pool IV.  Because it feels rather goofy to award myself with sweets, I’ll be sending them to the participant who scored worst in every single category.

Here’s how to read the table: Ellie’s data is in the row labeled “actual.”  The row “average” represents the average of all guesses.  All other rows are actual guesses, sorted in order of ascending points.  Every category shows the number of points with which the guess is penalized, and next to it the percentage of the total points contributed by this category.  The coloring scale of the points is relative to the other participants (how well did I do compared to X’s guess?), but the coloring of the percentages is relative to the other categories (how much damage did I do in this category?).

For example, I guessed both the gender and length right, giving me zero points.  Everything is green: I scored best relative to everyone else, and contributed the least to my point total.  However, in the weight category, I was over 200 grams off, so I scored -1.05 points.  Compared to everyone else, that was an ok score: yellow points.  But compared to my point total, this was by far the largest chunk – 85% of my score – and therefore deep red.  The color coding lets you see where you can improve your guessing, and it shows me that the formula probably gives the date too much weight.  If there is ever another pool, I’ll reduce the penalty to 1 point per two days off.

As for the category winners: Sandra and I win the length category, Noah edges out Sandra and Kathy in weight, and I win the date category.  Except for the date, Sandra did a terrific job of getting Ellie’s vital stats – but I checked, even with the reduced date penalty I’d still win the pool.

So here they are: more numbers than you can shake a stick at.

Baby Pool IV

I’m not quite as early in setting this up as last time, or the time before that, but still well ahead of the initial pool.  Little One is due June 15, but Janet’s feeling big already and despite her pick is hoping for an early arrival.  Here’s how to play: leave a comment with your prediction of Little One’s birth date, time, size, weight, and gender, and whoever gets closest on average to the truth wins a sweet prize.

Rules for determining the grand winner:
1. If you get the gender right, you receive 0 points; if you get it wrong, or don’t state it, -5 points.
2. For every day you are off, -1 point.  Not stating day or time scores -5 points.
3. For every centimeter you are off, -1 point.  Not stating anything scores -5 points.
4. For every 200 grams you are off, -1 point.  Not stating anything scores -5 points.
5. The person with the highest total wins.
6. Entering after Little One’s arrival voids the entry.
Go to digitaldutch for a useful unit conversion link, or have a look at the Google spreadsheet I made for converting weights!

I guess having three kids running around makes for fewer photographs, as I don’t have a current picture of Janet’s baby belly.  She looks a lot like the photo in the third baby pool post, except perhaps a little bigger.  We are, of course, two weeks later.

Historical data, for those who need it for their pick: First baby 6 days early, 51cm, 3590g; second baby four days late, 53cm, 3840g; third baby eight days late, 53cm, 4300g.

Good luck!

The Scandal of the Evangelical Taste

I recently stumbled across a blog post asking the question, “Why are Christian movies so painfully bad?”  I had to read that, because I’d asked myself the question before about Christian (Evangelical) arts in general, and wondered if the author, Mr. Ambrosino, had an answer.

He does, and I think he’s right, and recommend reading the entire post – but for my time-starved friends I’ll boil it down to this: We Evangelicals care about the factual content above everything else.  Tell (don’t show) me the old, old story, and then follow it up with a group discussion guide.

Mr. Ambrosino’s contention: Evangelicals love the Word over any “packaging”, and thus art takes a back seat to the message.  Wooden dialogue, endless exposition, predictable chord changes / modulations / rhymes: it’s okay for art to suffer as long as God is glorified and the gospel preached.  Except that only the choir is listening.  To quote Mr. Ambrosino:

Old Fashioned, like many Christian films of late (see: God’s Not Dead, Left Behind, Heaven is For Real), doesn’t understand this marriage of content and form. As a result, the lessons at the heart of the story — i.e., the whole reason the film exists in the eyes of its core audience — are easily dismissed by the secular masses the film is ostensibly meant to reach. This is the irony of the Christian film industry: movies that appeal mostly to Christians are marketed as if capable of bringing sinners to repentance.

This approach to art also explains the reactive nature of Christian art and writing, why it sometimes feels like there’s so little originality in the Christian bookstores.  Da Vinci Code?  Write rebuttals.  Fifty Shades of Grey?  Shoot a not-Fifty-Shades-of-Grey movie.  Harry Potter?  Promote Narnia.  I love Narnia, but it should be promoted in its own right and not with the nervous intent on keeping up with the Joneses.  The children of a creator God, who calls us to excellence (Php 4:8), should be leading the way with fresh, creative art – but as long as the obvious presence of a gospel message trumps quality artwork, we’re creating a self-sustaining market for lazy art, and if the world mocks us for our bad taste (if it even notices), well, Jesus promised us persecution, right?

But “how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  True, they can’t, but can they hear any better with someone preaching to them poorly?  We ignore at their peril the basic principle that communication is more than just the factual content of phrases, and depends significantly on its packaging.  Articles like Mr. Ambrosino’s give me hope that some people may be catching on and taking more care to marry content and form, which I contend will not only give us art we can take pride in, but better and more effective preaching as well.